In yet another welcome sign of things that may soon come, the first golf course in the smallest of the seven United Arab Emirates has been given a second life.
The government of Ajman has revived its biggest and most ambitious development venture, the much-ballyhooed Al Zorah “mini city,” which was originally envisioned to occupy 2,965 acres along a mile of the Persian Gulf. Al Zorah was announced with great fanfare in late 2007, as a symbol of the emirate’s Dubai-inspired future, but was unceremoniously flattened less than two years later, when the Great Recession took the wind out of the UAE’s financial sector.
Times have changed, to be sure, and so has Al Zorah. The new master plan is a scaled-down version of the residential-focused “mini city.” Gone is more than half of the acreage (it’s been whittled down to 1,335 acres), most of the hoped-for houses (formerly enough for 160,000 residents and 70,000 employees), the malls, the schools, and the medical facilities.
Moved to the forefront, according to Al Zorah Development Company, are attractions tailored “to drive mass tourism to the region.” The community’s prime attractions will be a half-dozen resort-style, waterfront hotels, four marinas (two have already been completed), and an 18-hole, championship-length golf course. Also in the works are a “city center” with offices, retail space, and a public square, as well as a reduced number of villas and townhouses and a high-rise residential tower. The first phase of construction, scheduled to be completed in 2014, consists of four hotels (nearly 700 total rooms) and the golf course.
Despite the downsizing, Ajman’s emir, Sheikh Rashid Bin Humeid Al Nuaimi, is still counting on Al Zorah to “redefine the economic landscape of the emirate.”
The sheikh is developing Al Zorah with Solidere International, an affiliate of Lebanon’s biggest development company. Nassar Chammaa, Solidere’s chairman, believes the recalibrated Al Zorah can capitalize on opportunities offered by the post-recession economy and is, more important, affordable. “We have a strong balance sheet and cash to fund our phase one without resorting to any bank finance,” he said late last year.
The partners insist that Al Zorah will someday become the bustling “mini city” that showcases Ajman’s economic potential. But if that day ever comes, it likely won’t be anytime soon.
This story originally appeared in the World Edition of the Golf Course Report, in a slightly different form. For a sample copy of the World Edition, call 301/680-9460 or write to WorldEdition@aol.com.